As the super-strong and super-dour detective Jessica Jones, Krysten Ritter is the breakout star of Marvel’s TV shows. Olly Richards meets her as season two hits Netflix
Firstly, having just binged the new episodes of Jessica Jones, it’s good to hear you sounding like a happy person and not dour and angry.
“In Jessica Jones I am absolutely acting my ass off! I’m not nearly as dark as she is. I’m much more alive and joyful.”
The first season was a massive hit. It’s been over two years since it was released, so where are we going in season two?
“She’s dealing with the aftermath of Killgrave [the mind-controlling villain, played by David Tennant]. She’s battling with the internal struggle of whether she’s a killer and a monster, or whether she did the right thing [in killing him]. A lot of the issues that we dealt with in season one don’t just go away because of Killgrave’s death. Jessica is really trying to find her place in the world. She’s dealing with sudden notoriety. People suddenly know who she is and they either want her to kill people or they’re afraid of her. We get deeper into her psychological situation and her backstory, which then leads to a plot we don’t see coming.”
Does that sudden notoriety resonate with you? You were well known before this show, but it’s really sent you to another level.
“I can totally relate to that. You have to live your day-to-day life a little differently. There’s definitely no handbook on handling that, but I think I certainly handle it better than Jessica Jones does.”
As well as being part of your own hit show, you’re also a piece of the massive Marvel universe. Are you expected to know what’s happening in all the other areas?
“No. On the television side, I’m dear friends with the [Defenders cast] so I know what’s going on there… There’s not a lot of crossover with the [movies]. I did go and see Black Panther opening weekend like everybody else, but that’s more because I heard it was amazing rather than doing homework. And I loved it.”
Black Panther was a big step in terms of diversity for Marvel. Your show is still the only female-fronted Marvel property…
“Yes. That’s changing, though [Captain Marvel, starring Brie Larson, is currently in production]… I try not to scare myself with the idea that that’s some sort of heavy responsibility, but I certainly feel proud of that.”
As a woman working in such a male-dominated part of the industry, I want to ask your take on what’s happening currently with the momentum of the Time’s Up campaign. What changes are you seeing?
“I certainly notice there is much more of a mandate to give opportunities to women. With our show, we hired all women to direct our episodes [on season two]. There’s much more of a mandate to represent diversity, whichI think is huge. I’ve been working for a long time and certainly 10 years ago, maybe even five, that wasn’t there. I think we’re starting to see real change. We’re starting to see more women get shots at showrunning, writing. I think the Time’s Up movement is amazing and it’s only going to help make things more fair and help audiences see more stories. We’re going to see more people represented in front of and behind the camera. It’s the most extraordinary thing that’s happening. You can feel it, that everyone’s fired up and passionate.”
In what ways can you feel it?
“You see it in the shows that are coming out. You see a character breakdown and they’re open to all ethnicities or it says, ‘This character could be a man or a woman’. That is very different.”
You wrote your first book, Bonfire, last year. Are you glued to your desk from 9am-5pm or do you cram just before the deadline?
“I am very disciplined. As soon as the proposal was [accepted], I was fully focused. Hard deadline. Pedal to the metal. Writing every day as soon as I wake up. I work the best when I first wake up. I’ll get up, get the coffee rocking, go to my computer and then work until my brain is tired.”
You should be teaching this. You could help a lot of far lazier people.
“That is absolutely my next career. On set, I’m always the person doing life-coaching. I’m so into it. People naturally share struggles with me and ask questions. I am an extremely good pep-talker so I am very happy to give them advice based on what I’ve learned along the way. I think that’s because I didn’t really have that growing up. I didn’t have someone to give me the tools.”
Where did you get those tools?
“If I’d ever meet a particular kind of person, or a woman who was more established than me, I would hang on their every word and learn as much as possible. I still do, whether it’s one of the directors on our show or Carrie- Anne Moss [who plays Jeri Hogarth on the show]. I’ll glue myself to people who know more about a subject, and squeeze them for all their information.”
Are you the sort of person who hates a day of doing nothing?
“Well, if I’m tired I might – no, what am I saying? I can’t do nothing. I definitely work a lot and take on a lot of projects, but not stuff that feels like work to me, because I’ve found jobs that are my favourite hobby. So nothing is ‘work’. That said, if I feel run down I can do a day where I’m just knitting on the couch, watching documentaries.”
But that’s not a day of doing nothing, you see. You’ll end that day with a scarf or a jumper.
“True. I am still producing something. One hundred per cent. I cannot do nothing.”
Jessica Jones season two is available on Netflix now